A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.
Few cultures can lay claim to having as much influence on beer as the Germans can. The list of styles originated in Germany seems endless. The country famous for the biggest party in the world (Oktoberfest) and its beer purity law (the Reinheitsgebot) also gave rise to a fermentation style that would come to dominate the world, cold or lager fermentation. In this month’s Classics I take you through two influential German beers. One that once saved a near extinct style, and one that still uses a historical malt drying technique.
Serving: 16.9 oz bottle
Once upon a time, the Weissbier was king. But similar to a lot of historical styles, nothing gold can stay. After enjoying immense popularity during the 17th and early 18th centuries, the demand for Weissbier started to drop dramatically in the mid 18th century. If it wasn’t for a talented brewer named Georg Schneider, this style of beer probably would have become extinct. Give credit where credit is due. Thank you Georg Schneider…I don’t know what I would do without Hefeweizen….sniff…
Pouring out a Hefeweizen is a work of wonder. Carefully pour the beer down the side of a traditional Weizen glass at a 45 degree angle (see the picture if you don’t know what type of glass that is). Don’t pour out too fast, as this beer is loaded with carbonation and will get ahead of you if you let it. Tilt the glass slowly to straight up as the beer gets past the halfway point ensuring that a big fluffy head of foam sits on top. Always pour out the yeast with a Hefeweizen because it is meant to be served this way. The yeast is what imparts a unique character to this style.
Once in the glass, Schneider Weisse fills the air with an aroma of bubblegum, banana and the lightest of toasted malt. I can never wait too long to grab a taste of a Hefeweizen, the temptation is too great. A spritzy wheat taste awaits accompanied by a clove spice and freshly ground pepper. Light and packed full of flavor, beers like this are incredibly drinkable and can quench your thirst like none-other. Once the weather starts to warm up, this is the perfect beer.
Hefeweizen is an underrated style and often takes a backseat to the American Wheat Ale in the states. The dirty little secret of the American Wheat Ale is that it is essentially a Hefeweizen but without the unique, flavorful yeast. Where is the fun in that?! If you love beers like Oberon or Gumballhead, give their historical inspiration a try.
In case you were wondering, in German “Hefe” means yeast. “Weiss” – white. “Weizen” – wheat. “Dunkel” – dark.
Style: Smoked Beer (Rauchbier)
Serving: 16.9 oz bottle
If you were to travel back in time for some reason and happen upon a maltster (the person who is in charge of overseeing the process of converting barley into malted barley), you would see them drying the malt over an open fire. This was an “old” technique of malt drying that has nearly died off today. Reason being, drying the malt this way imparts a distinct smoke flavor to the eventual finish beer (something that is not desirable in all beers). In Germany there is a little slice of heaven town called Bamberg. It is here that this “old” technique of malt drying has lived on and produced some of the most unique beers on the planet.
Pour out Schlenkeria’s smoked märzen and you will be immediately enticed by the dark brown hue with its thick, lightly tan-colored head. Wait for just one extra second to prepare yourself for what is to come. This beer will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.
The aroma takes you to a cowboy campfire breakfast: a slab of bacon cooking in a frying pan over a brightly hot fire; the welcoming smell of maple paired off with breakfast sausage. The taste brings you a bit of chocolate and toasted malt. Quick to return is a pile of burnt out coals left over from a fire burning not too long ago. Sliced ham with a spoonful of maple syrup. The smoke is prevalent and leads most of the way but isn’t overwhelming. The beer finishes clean with a lingering puff of smoke.
I will come right out and say it: This beer is not for everyone. It is very different and might turn off some. For the adventurous type, this is a must-try. The American craft movement is starting to draw inspiration from these beers and is putting its own unique spin on the smoked style. Pick up a wonderful and influential piece of brewing history today because you never know where something can go before you know where it has been.
Next week in the Vas Review: Back to the brewery spotlight!
Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter, Untappd or Instagram at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com. Visit his other beer blog at gardemybiere.com.